[Joseph J. Foss, Earling W. Zaeske, Daniel G. Cunningham, and Frank L. Lawlor oral history interviews]
This recording contains one-on-one interviews with fighter aces Joseph J. Foss, Earling W. Zaeske, Daniel G. Cunningham, and Frank L. Lawlor. The interviewees discuss their wartime experiences as fighter pilots and share details about their naval aviation careers during World War II. Topics discussed include notable combat missions, aerial victories, and stories about fellow pilots.
The interviews are conducted by fellow fighter ace Eugene A. Valencia during an unspecified event, likely a Naval Aviators’ reunion
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Joseph J. Foss was born on April 17, 1915 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He enrolled in flight training with the United States Marine Corps in 1940 and received his commission the following year. After serving as a flight instructor at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Foss joined a reconnaissance squadron, then transferred to Marine Fighting Squadron 121 (VMF-121). From 1942 to early 1943, he flew missions in Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands, and other areas of the South Pacific. After his promotion to major in June 1943, he assumed command of Marine Fighting Squadron 115 (VMF-115). Foss left active duty in 1946 and afterwards served in the South Dakota Air National Guard. As a civilian, he served several terms as a South Dakota legislator and governor, as commissioner of the American Football League, and as president of the National Rifle Association. Foss passed away in 2003.
Earling W. Zaeske was born on February 25, 1922 in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. He joined the United States Navy in 1942 and was assigned to Fighting Squadron 2 (VF-2) after earning his Naval Aviator designation. Zaeske served two combat tours in the Pacific Theater, one aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6) and one aboard the USS Hornet (CV-12). During his tours, he participated in the Iwo Jima and Philippine campaigns and also flew in the Battle of the Philippine of Sea (June 1944). Leaving active duty after the war, Zaeske became a school administrator in Illinois after earning his master’s degree in school business management. He retired in 1977 and passed away in 2009.
Daniel G. Cunningham was born on July 3, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois. He joined the United States Navy in 1941 and graduated from flight training the following year. In 1943, Cunningham joined Fighting Squadron 17 (VF-17), commanded by the famous aviator John Thomas “Tommy” Blackburn, and was deployed to the South Pacific aboard the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). During his second combat tour, he served with Fighting Squadron 10 (VF-10) aboard the USS Intrepid (CV-11). Cunningham left the military after the war and worked in the life insurance and real estate industries. He later became a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Cunningham passed away in 2006.
Frank L. Lawlor was born on December 16, 1914 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He joined the United States Navy in 1937 and graduated from flight training the following year. After an assignment with Fighting Squadron 3 (VF-3) aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-3), Lawlor resigned from the Navy to join the American Volunteer Group in the China-Burma-India Theater. He rejoined the Navy following the deactivation of the AVG in 1942 and later took command of Fighter Bombing Squadron 9 (VBF-9) aboard the USS Yorktown (CV-10). Lawlor remained in the military after war and retired as a commander in 1961. Afterwards, he managed a NASA station as a civilian contractor and worked as a stockbroker in Virginia. Lawlor passed away in 1973.